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New Player's Guide to Character Creation: Character Backgrounds

Welcome back to the Quests at Hand New Player's Guide to Character Character Creation. In this post we will be covering the next step of creating your character in Dungeons & Dragon's 5E: picking a fitting Background for your character.

What is a Character Background?

A Character's Background is the representation of what a character experienced and how they lived before they became an adventurer. Background selection is done in the early development of a character and provides additional character backstory and game content. Each background provides unique starting equipment and proficiencies for a character.

Picking a Character Background:

There are three major questions to consider when determining your character's background:

What would my character have been doing pre-adventure?

Each background describes the general activities and connections that a character was involved with as well as adding flavor to their personality through their experiences. Using the idea of what your character does and how they came to be how they will be an important factor in selecting a fitting background.

What skills and abilities would my character learn from their life before adventuring?

Every Background offers its own set of features, skills and proficiencies. While picking your character's background it is important to think about what they are able to do and what bonuses they would get from the chosen background. Features are unique abilities that each background provides and usually provide flavor and roleplay potential to your character. Each background also offers languages, tool proficiencies, and skill proficiencies that your character would learn through their background's way of life.

What equipment would my character have going into their adventures?

Backgrounds also determine some of the starting equipment that your character possesses going into their adventures. Each background's starting equipment fits with the theme of the background and it is important to brainstorm the items you think your character would want to obtain in their pre-adventuring life that meshes with their personality and backstory.

Background Example:

Here is an example of a background in D&D 5E, what it offers to a character, and a character idea that it would make sense for:

Background: Acolyte

Acolyte Description:

You have spent your life in the service of a temple to a specific god or pantheon of gods. You act as an intermediary between the realm of the holy and the mortal world, performing sacred rites and offering sacrifices in order to conduct worshipers into the presence of the divine. You are not necessarily a cleric – performing sacred rites is not the same thing as channeling divine power.

Choose a god, a pantheon of gods, or some other quasi-divine being, and work with your DM to detail the nature of your religious service. Were you a lesser functionary in a temple, raised from childhood to assist the priests in the sacred rites? Or were you a high priest who suddenly experienced a call to serve your god in a different way? Perhaps you were the leader of a small cult outside of any established temple structure, or even an occult group that served a fiendish master that you now deny.

Example character who works well with the Acolyte description:

A cleric character who is heavily connected to their deity and has spent their pre-adventuring life working in a temple and spreading the word of their deity. They grew up in a religious community and focused heavily on their religious studies and creating their connection with their deity.

Acolyte Feature and Proficiencies: Shelter of the Faithful

As an acolyte, you command the respect of those who share your faith, and you can perform the religious ceremonies of your deity. You and your adventuring companions can expect to receive free healing and care at a temple, shrine, or other established presence of your faith, though you must provide any material components needed for spells. Those who share your religion will support you (but only you) at a modest lifestyle.

You might also have ties to a specific temple dedicated to your chosen deity or pantheon, and you have a residence there. This could be the temple where you used to serve, if you remain on good terms with it, or a temple where you have found a new home. While near your temple, you can call upon the priests for assistance, provided the assistance you ask for is not hazardous and you remain in good standing with your temple.

Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Religion

Languages: Two of your choice

Example character who would have these abilities and proficiencies:

A character who spent a lot of time worshipping and also worked directly in a place of worship. They also spent time teaching others the ways of their deity and as such learned some of the tongues of other races.

Acolyte Equipment:

Equipment: A holy symbol (a gift to you when you entered the priesthood), a prayer book or prayer wheel, 5 sticks of incense, vestments, a set of common clothes, and a pouch containing 15gp

Example character who would possess these items and carry them into their adventures:

A cleric who has left their temple and village to spread the word of their deity and took with them the necessary supplies to continue their worship. They also have a fair amount of coin from the donations that citizens made to the temple.

Available Character Backgrounds:

The Quests at Hand database provides the full background info for a ton of official backgrounds here:

We hope this guide will help you choose a fitting background for your character. Remember to ask yourself the three questions highlighted in this guide and use the example provided to find the perfect background for your new character. The Quests at Hand database provides all the backgrounds you can choose from and presents them in an easy to read format.

Thanks for reading and feel free leave a comment sharing anything about your new character, any questions about the post you may have, or whatever other cool D&D related stuff you want to share! Source: D&D Player’s Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook)


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